Unitasker Wednesday: Asparagus Peeler

My friends Craig and Brittany have rascally senses of humor, which I greatly enjoy. This past weekend, they surprised me with a very special gift — a unitasker they found lurking unused at the back of their kitchen utensil drawer:

The Orka Asparagus Peeler is for all those times you peel your asparagus, which, at least for the three of us, is never. I’ve never peeled my asparagus. Craig and Brittany have never peeled their asparagus. In fact, after looking through a handful of cookbooks, we couldn’t find any recipes that required asparagus stalks to be peeled. The three of us never even knew asparagus has skin that could need peeling.

Surprisingly, there are numerous styles of asparagus peelers available to meet a person’s asparagus peeling needs (we found five, there are likely more). We’re not really sure why, though, a standards vegetable peeler couldn’t peel your asparagus if you actually wanted to peel your asparagus?

Who are the asparagus peelers of the world? Why are they peeling asparagus? And why are they purchasing special peelers to take on this (seemingly) unnecessary task? And how in the world did my friends Craig and Brittany come to possess this odd unitasker in the first place?

The world may never know …

43 Comments for “Unitasker Wednesday: Asparagus Peeler”

  1. posted by Lola on

    If you get asparagus with really thick, tough stalks, it’s nice to peel them, at least the ends. I got some like this at a really fancy restaurant once, with hollandaise sauce. I think I have peeled thick asparagus once, maybe twice. I used a regular vegetable peeler, I didn’t even know they made a special tool for it.

  2. posted by David on

    If you buy some types of asparagus (especially in Germany) they have a really thick skin that needs to be peeled. In North America those type of asparagus are very rare.

  3. posted by Cathy W on

    I have a cookbook with a couple recipes for asparagus, which the writer insists needs to be peeled. I’ve never bothered; I like asparagus just fine as-is.

  4. posted by Meg on

    I’ve never had peeled asparagus. Is it that different?

    I usually keep skins on fruits and veggies because you lose so many nutrients otherwise.

  5. posted by Jonathan Gardner on

    Being from NOLA, I have eaten all kinds of things. I have heard of, and eaten, recipes that most people can’t imagine. What I have never heard of, is someone peeling asparagus. Nice find. I think I will order 4.

  6. posted by trillie on

    What David said! In Germany, the white asparagus needs to be peeled before cooking, because the thick fibers of the skin are barely chewable. You can use the peels to make soup, though :) Here’s a picture of the peels, they don’t change texture even after an hour of cooking: http://de.wikipedia.org/w/inde.....pargel.JPG

  7. posted by Dave POchettino on

    If you buy white asparagus at the grocery store, it generally needs peeling

  8. posted by Elise on

    Recipe that requires shaved asparagus and it looks delicious!
    http://smittenkitchen.com/2010.....gus-pizza/

    However, smittenkitchen being of a like-mind does not believe a special asparagus peeler is necessary and happily makes do with a regular peeler.

    Out of curiousity – can the asparagus peeler be used to peel other things? I enjoy its cute, green color.

  9. Avatar of Erin Doland

    posted by Erin Doland on

    @David and trillie — Can you use a regular vegetable peeler for these incredibly hearty German stalks?

  10. posted by Pura Vida on

    Sometimes I need to peel the thick bottom of the asparagus stalk because it cooks slower than the thinner section. If you peel the bottom then the whole asparagus can be cooked to al dente. Yumm, eat more vegetables! A vegetable peeler will do it just fine.

  11. Avatar of

    posted by Katha on

    Hi Erin, being from Germany I can probably aswer this: yes, you can. Likewise, you can use the asparagus peeler as a regular vegetable peeler ;^). I must admit that I have never gotten the distinction anyway.

    An asparagus/vegetable peeler like you have pictured, with the blade perpendicular to the grip, not parallel to it, works especially well on everything longish, like carrots, zucchini and rhubarb – or, indeed, asparagus.

    But really you probably better use a dedicated asparagus peeler if you want to participate in an asparagus-peeling contest.

    (I am _so_ not kidding: http://www.google.de/search?hl.....#038;meta= )

  12. posted by Marianne on

    If you never have eaten white asparagus before, you’ve never had real asparagus. In fact, the first time I bought a can of green asparagus by accident, I thought they were spoiled.
    We call it the white gold, and it is harvested when still in the soil. There is nothing like fresh asparagus bought on the field where they were harvested the same day.
    And yes, they need to be peeled, otherwise they are inedible. They are not as flexible as green asparagus, that is why this peeler works better than a normal one. You don’t want the asparagus to break. And yes, you can peel everything you use a normal peeler, like cucumber or carrots.

  13. posted by Gina on

    Erin,

    I think you are totally right about the peeler to the extent that a regular peeler can perfectly do the job of peeling any asparagus if needed.

    However, you are at least partially wrong about the peeling of asparagus in general (someone already commented on that). Germans predominantly grow and eat WHITE asparagus. This type definitely needs peeling because the skin is too hard and tastes awful and yucky if you leave it on. Not recommended!
    Someone also mentioned that it is actually recommendable to peel at least the ends of GREEN asparagus since they get more tender that way. GREEN asparagus is what Northern Americans are used to, and this explains why you do not know that there might be asparagus that needs peeling. Green asparagus is mostly fried or stir-fried to cook, and eaten ‘al dente’, while white asparagus is almost always boiled to perfection and eaten very tender with butter or sauce hollandaise. Totally delicious! This is definitely one of the very few things I miss in the US. And do not try any white canned asparagus or the variety you buy in glasses! Not good!

  14. posted by Nichole P on

    I was also going to post the smittenkitchen asparagus pizza recipe. Yum! However in the pictures that go along with the recipe, you can CLEARLY see Deb using a regular ol’ veggie peeler!

  15. posted by Lydia on

    I often peel green asparagus near the ends so they won’t be so tough. The alternative is just to snap the tough ends off, but that can waste quite a bit of the stalk.

    I’ve always used a regular vegetable peeler for the task, though.

  16. posted by Bill Burge on

    As a former cook/cheff, I peel asparagus all the time if I get a rougher batch, or if I’m going to use it in something fancier.

    Your unitasker still stands, however, as I just used my normal veg peeler.

  17. posted by Gardenia on

    German asparagus has a tough, thick and bitter skin that makes the vegetable inedible if not peeled.
    Asparagus peelers, as far as I understand, peel more thinly (as not to loose any of the valuable edible part) and allow to be held differently, because otherwise it is easy to break the asparagus while peeling (which makes it a no-go to serve in polite company. broken asparagus does not do).

  18. posted by Julia on

    I’ve seen recipes that say to peel thick asparagus to make it a consistent thickness from end to end so it’ll cook evenly. But you don’t have to peel thin asparagus.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the work. If I can find thin asparagus I’ll take my chances with over/under cooking part of it.

  19. posted by chacha1 on

    I’ve never tried the white asparagus. Bristol Farms often has it but it’s, you know, $8-$12 a bunch. Now that I know it must be peeled, forget it!

  20. posted by Mina on

    Here is anotherone from Germany! I heard that in England they eat white aspargus without peeling it- but they don’t really eat it, they suck it out and leave the skin.
    So, unless you want to eat like that or choose green ones, you just have to peel it.
    Also, with the skin you can make really good aspargus soup!

  21. posted by Dawn F on

    Lordy! Is there a brussel sprout peeler and a green bean peeler out there in the world, too?

    LOL!

    Ya gotta love Unitasker Wednesdays! Sometimes I don’t know what’s more hilarious – the item itself or the comments.

  22. posted by Bren on

    Mina, white asparagus isn’t common in England at all. English people love their green asparagus, just perfect right at the end of May, with a bit of butter and freshly ground black pepper and some jersey royal potatoes. mmmmmmmmm….. And there just is no way you can “suck out” white asparagus and leave the skin.

  23. posted by Manu on

    Good White Asparagus is expensive and sooooo delicious. It has to be harvested by hand and in the early morning hours before the spears get too much sun and turn green/violett.
    And a special peeler that only cuts off the skin and not to much of the asparagus itself is very useful.
    I come from an area where it is grown and we have asparagus peeling contests every year :)

  24. posted by JKM on

    you haven’t mentioned the asparagus pan http://www.aspergepan.com/rvs-aspergepan/
    which is another must have if you worship asparagus, and need to boil them standing upright.
    To be fair, peeling (white)asparagus is a bother, so this peeler makes sense. And probably saves quite a lot of time compared to a regular peeler. So it is a unitasker, but not totally ridiculous.

  25. posted by alle on

    Katha, thank you so much! I’m looking forward to using “Spargelschälwettbewerb” in a sentence today!

  26. posted by Brittany on

    Oh, Erin. I told you how I came to have it, and how I brought that across this country just for you – because you, in fact, are the person most in need of an asparagus peeler. You might need to, like, garnish something with asparagus spirals. Which is something you do.

  27. posted by Patrick on

    This looks to be a standard variety of vegetable peeler, a pretty ordinary kitchen multitasker. Its just that this one has a hilariously unitasking NAME. (Like the pizza cutter, a standard kitchen multitasker but one named after one rather limited use.)

    Perpendicular peelers are apparently better for long things (carrots, parsnips, white asparagus, celery, etc.), while parallel peelers are better for others. I never really understood why — I’m pretty happy with just a parallel — but I recall even our inspiration Alton having both in his top drawer.

    A lot of design differences in bladed things are due to ergonomics and safety — how likely the blade is to slip when held a particular way — so I’m gonna put this one up there on the list of okay things to have. The tips of your fingers are the most important multitaskers of all! (It took my mother the loss of one to finally admit that sticking to her ancient $1 garage sale vegetable peeler was probably not worth the $6 she saved by avoiding a safer new one.)

  28. posted by bg on

    Do I read another chapter just in time for Halloween–
    The Asparagus Peeler Stalks at The Unclutterer…stay tuned. As alsways, Erin, Unitasker Wednesdays are always
    a great read–as are your posts throughout the week.
    Best wishes,
    BarbaraG

  29. posted by Jeanne on

    Mark Bittman says to peel your asparagus when it’s very thick, hearty asparagus. But my family only likes the thin kind, so it’s a lot of work for nothing. But those peelers are GREAT for peeling things like squash and other large veggies that are too impossible to get your hands around. Of course, I think the OXO version is better and the blade is longer. Truth to tell, any time something says it’s for a specific veggie or fruit I avoid it.

  30. posted by trillie on

    @Erin, yes of course you can use just another vegetable peeler, or a knife works well, too. (I got so excited I actually found such a pretty picture of the asparagus peels online that I forgot to add this information! Hee hee)

  31. posted by mp3 on

    I just chop the tough ends off and throw them in a freezer bag with other veg cuttings (like the tough stalk of broccoli) and put it in the freezer. Then when the bag is full, I throw the contents in a pot of water, add some onion, carrots, seasoning and make a nice batch of homemade vegetable stock for future use.

    So no, I have never peeled asparagus although thanks to everyone here who explained that white asparagus must be peeled and also should be cooked longer and served with sauce. Those were very helpful tips and now I know why I didn’t like the white asparagus I tried to cook a while back.

  32. posted by Juliana on

    This may be the all-time best unitasker. Thanks for the laugh this morning!

  33. posted by Rik on

    I have one of these right next to my handy avocado slicer. Thinking of putting together a Wall of Useless Things in my kitchen. :)

  34. Avatar of

    posted by trillie on

    @alle, want more fun words? If you participate in a Spargelschälwettbewerb, you’d be a Spargelschälwettbewerbtseilnehmer, last year’s winner would be the Spargelschälwettbewerbstitelverteidiger (titleholder), and their weapon of choice would probably be their very own Spargelschälwettbewerbstitelverteidigerspargelschäler :) (German compounds ftw!)

  35. posted by Stephanie Leary on

    The shaved asparagus pizza recipe from Smitten is delicious. So is this shaved asparagus salad with lemon vinaigrette. But my regular vegetable peeler worked just fine!

  36. posted by priest's wife on

    OK- off to the store to get some asparagus! YYYUUUMMMMM

  37. posted by WilliamB on

    Peeling and snapping both remove the tough, woody part of the stem. Peeling wastes less asparagus because the woody part is under the skin; if you peel you can use the entire stalk while if you snap you lose up to half of it. Peeling works better with fat stalks than skinny ones.

    I prefer peeling and have never felt the need for anything other than a regular veggie peeler. I prefer OXO.

  38. posted by chava on

    some people, who keep kosher, peel off the leaves because that’s where bugs live.

  39. posted by Gina on

    @ Trillie:
    You are hilarious with your German super-long-word collection! I actually used to collect those word creations at one time. But they are real, and Germans usually think it is perfectly ok to use them. Amazing,huh?

  40. posted by alle on

    @trillie, you just made my entire day!

  41. posted by Mina on

    Bren my Grandparens live in England and my mother brought this “tradition” to Germany. I acctualy watched her once sucking on aspargus- I didn’t want to try it. ;) But maybe they just are not used to it, when you say that they mostly eat green aspargus. (Also, once you don’t peel it, sucking is probably the only way to enjoy at least a little bit of the taste.

    Gina, we don’t really use these super long words. They are grammaticaly right, but at some point they do get unhandy.
    Also, you might use them while talking, but when you write a text it is not the most elegant way to say something. :)

  42. posted by Maarten on

    Asparagus are not only bred in Germany, but also in the Netherlands. Green asparagus (the shoots grow above ground level) taste very different from white asparagus (the shoots are covered with dry sand. The beds are raised up to 2 feet before harvesting.
    White or green depend on taste or dish to prepare.

    Well, to put another shovel of coal on the grill:
    Ever heard of the Dutch vegetable “Schorseneren”?
    (Scorzonera hispanica). It is a edible root, also called
    “Purple Morningstar” (Tragopogon porrifolius). In common speak:
    Poor men’s asparagus or Winter asparagus.

    These are a delicious vegetable and can be used instead of Asparagus (not all dishes of course). They have a thick layer of bark on them and you really need a razorsharp peeler. So this Unitasker-item can be used for different tasks! Enjoy your meal ;-)

  43. posted by AllieZirkle on

    Just a quick comment :)

    We live in Arizona not Germany, and we peel our asparagus! The reason? My husband and oldest daughter are in braces (orthodontia). They can’t bite through the tough exterior of the stalk. Peeling it takes extra time but allows them to actually eat it.

    If you need a new home for the peeler, I’d LOVE IT! email me and I’ll send you my home address. Really :)

    ~Allie

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